Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Do you ever start something and then wish you hadn’t?

I’m not the kind of person to drop things, I might start something and regret starting it but it is unusual for me to drop it part way through. Well I do sometimes but there is often a good reason.

I feel like this about my recent set of Blog entries on innovation. I got fired up by an idea, wrote about it then kind of found myself in a dead-end. I would have liked to research this and come up with more ideas but two things happened. First, I have a lot more projects on the go and these are projects I have commitments too (e.g. EuroPLoP, VikingPLoP write-ups) and second, I came to realise how vast the subject of innovation was.

So, I’d like to attempt a quick summary of where my thoughts on innovation are and then move on to other subjects. The need to complete my ideas on innovation is getting in the way of writing other blog entries and thoughts.

(I’ve also learned something about the blog media, it is better suited to short self-contained pieces which are loosely linked than long running closely linked entries.)

So Innovation...

I started my search with an appeal for me ideas like 3M’s “20% personal projects.” I was hoping to find some more ideas along these lines. Now I look at that and think that many of these ideas would be simplistic “quick fixes.”

I’ve come back to something I already knew – in fact something I stated in the first piece but didn’t pick up as a theme; namely: Innovation is about learning, problem solving and knowledge.

As a manager you should be concentrating your effects on making your organisation learn better. Innovation will follow. In a learning organisation you can then proceed to things like “20% projects.” Introducing these ideas into an organisation that has difficulty learning may get a few wins but isn’t going to be very effective.

But there is more to it than just learning. You need to create an “operating system” in your organization, onto of this you can run your learning and innovation applications. The operating system needs to provide for: trust between individuals, respect for individuals, rewards from the company, feedback to everyone, a tolerance of diversity and an understanding of failures – which implies that failures don’t get punished.

In reality I’ve come full circle on these ideas. Back where I was before I blasted off on my “innovation mission.”

Anyway, normal Blog service can now be resumed. Yes, I’ll talk about innovation from time to time but no long campaign to pin it (or anything else) down.

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